Stockholm

When I first traveled to Europe in college, I started my travels in Stockholm. I was planning to study at the Institute for European Studies in Vienna, Austria for a semester of immersive German study.

Because the European rail system offered a continental rail pass that covered all countries on one flat-rate ticket, I thought I should start my travels in the north and traverse the continent. I could hop between countries and over-night on the train. It was a good idea, but not very effective for restfulness. In those times European had not formed the Schengen agreement to obviate need for passport checks between European countries.  So each country had border patrols where the immigration officers would have to check and stamp your passport.  I gave up my plan and resorted to youth hostels for much of my trip.

Still Sweden was a great place to start. A fair chunk of my family tree was Swedish apparently. And I had an acquaintance, a photographer named Scott Gog, who lived in Stockholm. So I thought I’d get tales from a local of how to best appreciate this fine city. It turned out Scott had traveled out of the country on short notice. So I discovered the town by foot on my own.

Stockholm is one of the major ports of Northern Europe. Part of the Hanseatic League, it’s city formed around a cluster of islands at the mouth of an estuary where ships departed to trade with other countries of the region.

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The small island of Gamla Stan in the middle of the port is the historic old town centered around the King’s palace.  Here you can see the history of winners of the Nobel Prize, an annual Swedish award given to scientists and cultural/political figures in recognition for their contributions to society.

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The old town is elegantly painted with rich browns, oranges and yellows that give the streets a cheerful glow in clear Scandinavian air.

After the protestant reformation in Germany led by Martin Luther, much of Sweden followed in the practice of “Lutheranism.”  The architecture of Swedish churches appear quite different from the Gothic style prevalent across much of Europe.

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Stockholm is, I’m told, one of the best places to start a cruise for the many ports of the Baltic Sea (Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Russia, Poland, Germany and Denmark).  So I plan to return here as the base for my future exploration of those countries.

Take me home!

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